There has been a lot of discussion recently about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs). What are these, you might ask? Well, if you've used Google on your mobile to look at the latest news, you will probably have seen a new carousel that appears at the top of the results page. Those are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs).
AMP is an open-source coding standard for web developers. The aim of the AMP is to improve the speed and access of web pages for mobile users. Designed more for websites rich with articles and blogs, this skinny HTML sees pages loading much quicker. Backed by the likes of Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter, it will no doubt play an integral role in the development of online content going forward, as well as impacting on search engine ranking factors.
“For many, reading on the mobile web is a slow, clunky and frustrating experience - but it doesn’t have to be that way. The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere.” - www.ampproject.org
As SEO practitioners, we're always looking for the heads-up from Google on what they consider as ranking factors when indexing a website. So, when these types of initiatives are backed by the search engines, they are usually a good strong signal.
For example, back in 2012, Google launched their PageSpeed Insights tools to help webmasters improve their site speed through optimisation of images and coding. It was also a strong indicator that load speeds were being considered as a ranking factor.
AMP takes this one step further, and like the use of Rich Snippets and Schema.org, it will be on Google’s radar from now on. Not least because AMP HTML pages will start to appear within that carousel on the top of SERPs going forward.
So how does AMP work?
The idea is for AMP HTML to run in conjunction with your desktop versions by using a sub domain or adding an "AMP" slug to the end of your URL. Your site with then redirect mobile users through to this alternative version. Through using canonical URLs, you can specify the originating location of the article without having issues with duplicate content.
These super-fast pages are capable of being cached by Google who will then ultimately display the content without having to retrieve it from your website.
Here's an example of how the AMPs (on the left) look in comparison to the desktop version (on the right). Similar, but not identical - from a usability point of view, these AMP versions still offer the same content for readers, but a better experience on mobile.
Is AMP a fast-track to the top of search results?
Google’s new search carousel is like catnip for SEO and content marketers. A quick route to getting to the top of Google? Maybe. But hold your horses, it’s worth bearing in mind that AMP HTML is really only relevant to articles, so you’ll need a decent content strategy to begin with. Many of those who have implemented AMP have failed to see their articles appear in the search carousel yet!
It seems that the large publishers are really the only ones benefiting from this new feature at the moment. Using AMP is an investment for the long haul, at the very least.
As most recently as May 2016, Google’s Gary Illyes went on record to say:
“The format itself is open to anyone who’d like to speed up their sites, it’s not limited to only one kind of site. Currently, we’re testing AMP results with a limited set of publishers, but we’re exploring ways to show AMP results from more sites.”
Is AMP worth the effort?
How Google ranks a website has always been a little bit mysterious. We know the fundamentals - everything is driven towards creating the best possible user experience, the crux of good SEO practices.
But SEO practitioners are always looking for that little bit extra, something that will move a webpage just ahead of the competition, and that’s why you will see these guys as early adopters of the initiative. If it adds to the value of content and gets more exposure, then it should be added to the all-important checklist.
Back in 2014 Google sent a strong message - websites that used SSL certificates (HTTPs) would gain a competitive advantage on the SERPs on their HTTP counterparts. Today, 35% of domains that appear on page one are HTTPs - whether this is down to this being a ranking factor or more to do with Google’s PR campaign, maybe due to the savvy digital marketers who are considering it alongside other ranking factors, we can’t say. However, we can see that it has taken two years to witness this change.
Could it be the case that we see the true impact of AMP in the future?
It makes sense for us to look for ways to make pages much more efficient. User experience aside, we need to consider all initiatives to optimise the sheer volume of the content being generated online. After all, every day there are around 92,000 new articles added to the internet.
The interest in the AMP initiative looks like a strong indication from the internet giants who are acknowledging the need to improve processes going forward.
The more websites that start to use AMP HTML as part of their content strategy and within their blogs, the more likely it will become a heavyweight ranking factor.
Like the HTTPs changes, we may see the impact in 12 to 18 months. But as mentioned previously, it’s really only websites heavy on blogs and articles that will truly see the benefits from these pages at this stage.
We know that algorithms around mobile-friendly websites are going to be more impactful than the others (like Panda and Hummingbird) that relate to content and links, so we will be keeping a close eye on the developments of AMP.
If you are interested in learning more about the implementation of AMP or indeed you want to help to implement a content strategy to generate more blogs and articles for your website, please get in touch - we'll be happy to help.